Much has been made about technologies like artificial intelligence, and how South Africa needs to develop skills in this area as the country aims to be ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

One avenue where this is achieved is through education, and now Wits University has announced a new operation to conduct AI research aimed at the African market.

The new operation is being handled by Wits’ Molecular Sciences Institute (MIS) in partnership with the Cirrus Initiative.

“Wits is one of the leading institutions in machine learning and data science research in Africa, and that this collaboration will boost the University’s efforts as it envisions a step change in the research and application of AI in the region,” explains deputy vice-chancellor for research and postgraduate affairs, Zeblon Vilakazi. 

“To become competitive in this new wave of innovation fuelled by AI and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and with the substantial accumulation of resources and investments in new technologies in North America, Europe and Asia, require efforts in southern Africa on a magnitude far greater than any previous endeavour spanning academia and industry,” adds Vilakazi.

As for the finer details fo the operation, Cirrus notes that it will aim to create a collaborative university and industry platform supporting an ecosystem that fosters innovation and entrepreneurialism.

As the host university, Wits will lead the Cirrus Initiative’s cooperation efforts with other universities, institutes, centres of excellence and research groups in Africa.

“Combining Africa’s vibrant talent with the building of a globally competitive platform for leading scientific research and application will drive innovation and undoubtedly foster economic development in the region. In our pursuit of knowledge creation, it is also critical that Africans are the contributors, shapers and owners of the coming advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning,” concludes Vilakazi.

For now there has not been a definitive list of outcomes that the AI research platform has noted, but it is at least pleasing to see that some key players on the local tech space are looking to do their parts.